Open Letter to Development Partners: Put Your Money where Your Words ARE!

I have been contemplating jotting down this letter for a while now. But today, I found the courage to express my disappointment and diminishing hope in the business to change for the better.

Growing up I saw how age, culture and backgrounds defined who we are and who we shall be in the future. Many dreams were shuttered and potential silenced. These are just some of the experiences which have shaped the world that we live in today. Thumbs up to all men, women, activists, feminists and many others who stood up to defy negative social norms, culture and beliefs.

I was happy to be in this new generation where gender equality, inclusion and sustainability are among the key words which fill the world with hope, courage and an ambition to create a more inclusive and gender equal world.

In our generation youth and young women are encouraged to speak up, stand up for their rights and unleash their potential.

Seeing ambitious world targets like Agenda 2030 (SDGs) and Generation Equality, show that the world is ready for young people, in particular young women to disrupt the normal and take up spaces. We are grateful and happy to see such a welcoming and supportive environment.

BUT, through this letter, I would like to tell you that we need to move from hearing empty words on investing in young women and youth led organizations, tokenized funding to seeing meaningful action in supporting youth and young women in the spaces where they are organizing and expressing their voice.

As a young woman leader, who has founded an organization, existing within an ecosystem similar young women/youth led spaces, we are always the recipients/beneficiaries of trainings, mentorship and publicity support from different partners like the UN Agencies, Foundations, Bilateral Institutions and other relevant stakeholders in the NGO sector.

Boldly, I would like to say we are overt trained and over mentored. With all the training and mentorships we have received so far, there is not much we can do, if the same is not backed up with enough resources/investments to create meaningful impact and exercise our agency. You tell us that we can do anything and be anything we want when we are young, but why do you have to wait until we are old for you to trust us with enough resources?

Most of us are in pain, are struggling to see the dreams that we have for fellow young people perish before our eyes. We have many young women and youth who have dared and who are still daring to support their spaces but are not getting anywhere because of lack of enough people ready to back up their work and put in enough resources.

We are not saying that your due diligence is not important, but shouldn’t you start thinking on how you can still accommodate those you are celebrating on your social media and events, signifying how you are ready to engage young leaders. If you believe in our work enough to share or to invite us to speak, maybe it is about time you believe in us with your resources as well.

In simple words, strongly, I would like to say we are done with the ticking boxes business!

We are done being called to brainstorming meetings where we throw in ideas, attend events, speak in panels and then go home. For your information that and the like do not bring us any resources on the table, we end up just speaking without getting the resources we need to act on the things that truly affect us. We are done letting you diminish/kill our agency just because you want us in your corner. You see/like what we do, but do very little to support it.

We are done letting you put us in groups (umbrellas) when it comes to resourcing us. You acknowledge the power and the potential that we carry as youth/young women, but do not believe we enough integrity and capacity to manage resources, always need to put us under an old organization to manage finances, where all the HR support goes to that organization and youth organizations are requested to volunteer or you only pay one person only.

We are done letting you exploit our human resource. You are ready to invest in the projects but you are not ready to invest in the people who implement the projects. If we cannot afford the human resource we cannot afford to implement the project. As much as you compensate your human resource in your organizations/agency we also need to be compensated the same. It is hypocritical to expect us to deliver, if human resources are out of the picture.

I am asking you to ask yourself as much as you’re supporting young women/youth. How many young women led organizations/initiatives are you meaningfully investing in? In a rank of 1–10 if you are below 5 then this should tell you that you don’t live what you preach because the truth is, where your money is, is where your heart belongs.

We need more transparency in the funding portfolio, allow us to access data of where and to whom your money goes so that we can hold you accountable in the support you commit to give to young women/youth led organizations.

I am Happy to see over $ 40 Billion committed to gender equality during the generation equality forum. I am looking forward to seeing that trickle down in the grassroots organizations working with and for young women, in particular the young women-led organizations in the global south.

The following are some of the things that I would advise a funder who’s focusing on supporting and building youth led, particularly young women led organizations.

● Put up deliberate action to fund young women led organizations and initiatives. If you are training, mentoring and believing in our potential then you need to also invest in funding us. In a simpler way I would say, put your money where your words are!

● Create long term partnerships to support growth of the small organizations and initiatives. To take out all these pointers on us regarding not meeting up to the due diligence, maybe invest in us over time and help us build systems, decent compensation to the working team and support our projects. One time support on events or short projects is a limitation to sustainable organization growth.

● The world is moving into a more creative, innovative way of doing things including funding. If you are an organization that holds the bar so high in supporting youth, particularly young women you need to evolve your models of funding to be more inclusive of young women. Create flexible funding to resource their institutional strengthening

Warm regards,

Lydia Charles Moyo

This open letter was first published here and has been republished on this website with the kind permission of the author Lydia Charles Moyo.

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